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This week in the medical journals

By Michael Smith
Staff Writer, MedPage Today

Editor's note: has a business partnership with, which provides custom health content. A medical journal roundup from MedPage Today appears each Thursday.



Medical Research
Health Treatment
Flu Season
National Cancer Institute

Good news for women

Women who bring home the bacon -- as well as cook it -- are likely to be thinner and healthier than their stay-at-home counterparts, researchers at University College London said this week in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.

Even at age 26, women characterized as stay-at-home mothers were larger than women who worked outside the home, and for the next 27 years, they consistently gained more weight than women who "occupied multiple roles over the long term," the researchers found.

And pregnant women juggling jobs and family responsibilities shouldn't worry that normal life stresses or anxiety will harm their developing children, researchers at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore said. In fact, women who reported more stress and anxiety during pregnancy tended to have children more advanced in their mental and motor development at age two, the investigators reported in Child Development.

They stopped short of suggesting that women seek out additional stress to give their kids an added boost.

Outside jobs reward mothers with paychecks and good healthexternal link

Moderate stress and anxiety during pregnancy not a problemexternal link

And some bad news

Domestic violence has struck about 44 percent of all women at some point during their adult lives, according to a survey. About 15 percent of women reported domestic violence within the past five years, and that figure fell to about 8 percent for incidents in the past year, researchers from Seattle's Group Health Center for Health Studies reported in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

The data come from telephone interviews of more than 3,500 women in a large non-profit health maintenance organization serving Washington state and northern Idaho.

Nearly half of women no stranger to domestic violenceexternal link

Department of Duh

When a clinical trial of a new cardiovascular treatment is paid for by the therapy's maker, the reported outcome is likely to reveal good news. But when funding comes from non-profit sources, outcomes are less likely to favor the new treatments. And when for-profit and not-for-profit funders split the tab, the results are, in the words of Goldilocks, "just right."

That information emerged from an analysis by Harvard Medical School researchers of 324 consecutive trials of cardiovascular medicine published over nearly five years in three major journals and was itself published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Interestingly, trials whose outcomes are measurements of biochemical changes rather than clinical states -- altered blood chemistry rather than heart attack, for instance -- tended to favor new treatments regardless of who paid for the study, the researchers found.

Trial results favor sponsors -- who would have guessed?external link

Up in smoke...

Policosanol, a supplement made from sugar-cane wax and supposed to lower lipids, has flunked the acid test -- a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of patients with high cholesterol.

No matter what dose researchers from the German Medical Association used, the natural supplement did no better than a placebo in lowering lipids, according to a report in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

No cigar for Cuban lipid-lowering supplementexternal link

...And up in the air

The so-called "economy class syndrome" may exist, but it's not caused by reduced air pressure and oxygen levels in an airplane cabin, researchers from the University of Leicester in England said in the Journal of the American Medical Association. They got volunteers to sit in a hyperbaric chamber, in conditions simulating an eight-hour flight on a commercial airliner at standard cabin pressure.

The result? No increased risk of blood clots in the legs that could lead to heart attack.

On the other hand, the other part of the air travel equation is simply sitting in cramped conditions without moving -- and that may still cause venous thrombosis, the researchers said.

Traveler's embolism theory vanishes into thin air

Traveler's embolism theory vanishes into thin airexternal link

Statin concerns eased

Postmenopausal women who need to take statins to control their cholesterol can do so without fear of an increased risk of breast cancer, according to a large study reported in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. Indeed, University of Pittsburgh researchers said, the so-called "hydrophobic" statins -- those that resist dissolving in water -- appeared to reduce the risk of breast cancer by nearly a fifth compared with women who did not use a statin. Hydrophobic statins include Zocor and Lescol.

Statin-breast cancer risk ruled outexternal link

Picture of ill-health

Columbia University researchers in New York estimate that more than 80 million U.S. adults are either obese or smoke, and about 9 million are obese and also smoke, according to a report in the British Medical Journal. The snapshot was extrapolated from 29,305 adults who took part in the 2002 national health interview survey .

Both obesity and smoking are major risk factors for early death from several chronic conditions -- including heart disease and diabetes -- and the overlap of both probably carries an increased risk, the researchers noted.

Smoking, obesity, or both foretell early death for millionsexternal link

Flu choices

The sick and elderly should be last in line for scarce flu vaccine in a pandemic -- rather than near the front of the queue -- according to a review article in Science by ethicists with the National Institutes of Health. Current plans call for health care providers and vaccine workers to get the first doses of a vaccine, followed by the sick and elderly. Healthy adults are last on the list.

Ethically, that's wrong, the researchers argued, because older people have already lived much of their lives. And it may be bad medicine as well, because there's a good chance a flu outbreak will mimic the 1918 pandemic, which mainly attacked healthy young adults.

Elderly should be last for pandemic vaccine, ethicists argueexternal link

Run, Mickey, run

One study this week suggested that mice allowed to exercise as much as they liked had a reduced risk of skin and colon cancers, while another study -- in mice genetically predisposed to develop intestinal polyps -- showed that exercise meant their polyps were fewer and smaller than their sedentary cousins.

The studies, published in the journal Carcinogenesis, provided more evidence that an active lifestyle is good for you and may provide clues as to why, researchers from Rutgers University in New Jersey and the University of Wisconsin said.

Exercise lowers cancer risk in animal modelsexternal link

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